Raising Roo: Flying With a Carry-on Baby (Part 2)

…When the time for boarding finally came, Alex and I gave each other a quick pep-talk, sent a prayer to a god we don’t believe in, and strapped Roo to my chest in a baby carrier. 

This setup kept him happy for all the time it took to queue, scan our tickets, and make our way to the crowded gangway where we immediately came to a halt while the slow procession of passengers crawled into the confines of the plane. Stuck in the overpopulated metal tube, Roo vented the frustration we were all feeling and began to cry. Thankfully, as previously mentioned, my wife is an organisational queen and within seconds of his first sooky croak she had a tupperware container full of snacks out and three rice crackers stuffed into his tiny fist. As is so often the case with all of us, food turned his mood upside down and he was soon happily munching away while making eyes at anyone who looked his way.

Boarding further fed his need for attention as we picked our way down the aisle through the seated passengers, who, in desperate need of anything to distract them from their immediate discomfort, found the image of a little person strapped to a big person’s chest greatly entertaining. We moved down the length of the plane in a wave of smiles, partners tapping each other to point out the toddler at chest-height, and assurances of Roo’s cuteness from little old ladies who gave his foot a squeeze in passing like a worshipper grazing the fingers of a tiny cult leader.

We seated ourselves and, after three years of flightless lockdown, the illusion of the joy of flying that we had held in our heads was shattered as we instantly recalled just how little legroom a passenger is allotted. The sense of claustrophobia was only amplified by the baby on our lap who, in some weird M.C. Escher twisting of space, also didn’t have enough leg room despite his legs being the length of cucumbers. 

We were approached by a stewardess who provided a baby seatbelt and inquired if we were familiar with how it worked. I demonstrated through the carrier that I was well-versed in strapping my child to my body and we buckled Roo in, Alex’s turn this time, and then attempted to keep him that way and not squirming onto the young man who had the misfortune to be seated in the third seat of our row. 

We idled on the tarmac and Alex and I got to work jiggling keys, pulling faces, singing songs, plucking out vomit bags from the seat pocket to play with, and pointing out everything and anything that might serve to hold Roo’s interest for longer than thirty seconds. We were the jesters to the young prince and this juggling of distractions kept his lordship happy up until the big moment: take off.

Demonstrating once again that she is a force of forethought, my wife had prepared what is essentially a porous pacifier full of fruit that forces the infant to chew and suck in order to get the tasty treat into their mouth, meaning that as we elevated and the pressure shifted, Roo’s jaw was working hard, thereby avoiding the pressure build up inside his ears. Our little man was smiling and satisfied the whole way up, entirely unaware that he had just risen to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. 

Once we were up, we de-tensed a little, able to unbuckle our boy and pull out a tablet to mesmerise him with bright and colourful moving images. Roo climbed our bodies like ladders, peeking over our shoulders and some of the nearby passengers took over the load of providing entertainment, smiling and waving and falling under Roo’s cheeky spell.

Then the unthinkable, but what we prayed for to any god listening prior to boarding, happened. Roo leant back against me, Alex angling the tablet towards his eyeline, and he remained still. We held our breaths, equally as still as our son, and shared shocked glances as Roo’s eyelids drooped, and drooped further, then sprang open, then eased closed, and stayed that way. The patron saint of parents had answered our prayers and delivered up the holy grail of mid-flight transit possible scenarios – our baby slept. 

Our natural instinct was to holler and high-five, but we managed to restrain ourselves and instead whispered words of praise and congratulations to each other. While they gave no sign of the momentous event that had just occurred, I’m sure our neighbouring passengers were silently sharing in the victory. 

We spent the next thirty minutes grinning silently at each other and whispering how great we were at the whole parenting game while Roo dozed merrily on and we careened ever closer to Athens. My arm grew steadily more and more numb but I embraced the pins and needles, reasoning my limb was the sacrifice needed to appease the patron saints of parents and, if so, then it was a reasonable price to pay. 

Then, from down the aisle, we spotted the trolley. The metal cart jangled and clanked as it was pushed down the narrow thoroughfare, the too-smiley stewardess behind it speaking bubbly and loudly over the roar of the engines. We scrambled for a polite way to indicate for her to leave us the hell alone but any attempt at deflection would have meant matching her in volume and so, instead, we smiled as she approached and begged her with our eyes to be quiet. She provided the lunch options for the flight in her loud, syrupy voice and we whispered our responses and tensed around our boy, as if somehow we could cocoon him from all disruptions through sheer exertion.

The stewardess eventually trundled on and both our sets of eyes darted over Roo’s face, which remained soft and doll-like and asleep. We sagged back into our seats, wiped the sweat from our brows, and inspected what food we’d ended up with. To begin with, we tucked the sandwiches away, afraid the crinkle of packaging would be our undoing, but hunger and a growing sense of daring pushed us towards testing the limits of this blessing and sampling just a bite. 

Eventually we capitulated altogether and chewed merrily away on a surprisingly tasty hummus and sun-dried tomato sandwich while Roo continued to slumber across me.

After an hour in sleepland, his little head came up, hair in disarray, and we launched into long and detailed praises of what a wonderful boy he was as he blinked up at us before swatting at a vomit bag.

The captain announced the descent and we prepared for the final test of the journey. Alex had a second fruit pacifier ready and waiting, which at this point must come as no surprise to you, and so we descended as we ascended, with Roo chewing and slurping away and Alex and I acting nonchalant while tense from top to toes, ready for the re-pressurisation to kick in and our boy to transform into a howling monster. 

Thankfully, with the assistance of further snacks, inflight magazines, and adjoining passengers who mouthed sweet nothings at Roo from across the cabin, we touched down without seeing the Mr Hyde to Roo’s happily babbling Dr Jeckell. We had a few impatient grunts while waiting for the torturously slow disembarking (with us in the middle of the aircraft, effectively putting us the end of two lines as passengers shuffled to either end of the plane) but they were coming from Alex and I as much as Roo, so we couldn’t really complain.

A crowded bus took us to the airport, Roo held in my arms but with him dutifully holding onto the pole for added security, and then we had done it. We were in Greece. The sunshine was hot, the terrain dry, and both us and our fellow commuters had arrived without our ears ringing from two hours of a screaming child. A miracle had occurred in the skies that day and we hugged our boy and informed him that he was, in fact, an angel.

This opinion wavered on the three-hour drive from the airport to our accommodation where, in the final hour, our angel decided he’d had enough, that he was snacked out, that a second nap was out of the question, that no cartoon, no matter how bright and idiotic, could hold his attention, that any attempts of comfort were unappreciated, and the only way to express himself was to cry at top volume with tears and snot decorating his face in ribbons. 

Alex and I shared a look, shrugged, turned up the volume of the radio, and agreed that it was better that it was happening here, in the cabin of our car, with just us as an audience.

We arrived at our beautiful accommodation, our villa perched on the side of a hill with a view of the bay below us, exhausted, rung out, but essentially in one piece. Roo perked up once he was able to stretch his legs and made himself quite at home in the new digs, to the point that Alex and I almost could have believed the last hour was a shared delusion except for the tinnitus whining away just on the edge of our hearing.

We got Roo fed, dressed, and laid him in his crib, where, with some gentle encouragement, he finally succumbed to sleep, and then we called for some take away. We inhaled the gyros and chips on the terrace, the hummus and sun-dried tomato sandwich a distant memory, in view of our own private pool and with the lights of the bay blinking on, appreciating none of it and waiting only until we had digested enough to justify going to bed.

But when morning broke the next day, the sun painting the sky a rainbow of dusk colours and Roo waking at a time to ensure we could appreciate it, we reflected on the previous day’s success and sent out a final thanks to the patron saints of parents for having taken us into their fickle embrace.

We had done it, we had flown the two hours with a baby and had achieved the supreme victory of having had most of the other passengers oblivious to the fact that they had shared their journey with a pressure-sensitive bawling grenade.

We were able to replicate the experience on the return flight, complete with a mid-air nap, and Roo only crying in the final fifteen minutes as the pressure difference finally got to him and he became inconsolable. Thankfully this stopped the minute the pressure equalised and he returned to his previous activity of chowing down on a rusk stick.

In a week’s time we will once again take to the air and our new-found confidence will be put to the ultimate test. Rather than a two-hour jaunt across Europe, we will be flying to the planet’s southern hemisphere, to my home of Australia, a journey that takes two flights, a four-hour layover, and a total of twenty-four hours to complete.

Please pray for us and may the patron saint of parents have mercy on our souls.

Next week’s topic: The Fear that Comes With Fatherhood

My maestro of management, my force of forethought, and our angel/devil enjoying the tropical rewards of flying

Raising Roo: Flying With a Carry-on Baby (Part 1)

Having a baby in the middle of a global pandemic has meant that, for basically all of Roo’s life, our family of three have been home bods. Given that Alex and my preferred state of being is in tracksuit pants on the couch reading books, this has set Roo up with a realistic expectation of things to come.

Still, despite our love of burrowing down into a nest feathered with home-cooked meals, movies, books, coffee, chocolate, chips, and long chats on the couch, there’s a big beautiful world out there and we felt bad that our son had only seen a very small portion of it. We started to worry that we were raising a hermit and Roo would start school unable to identify basic landmarks and asking questions of his teacher such as “What is that big burning circle in the sky?”. 

With the objective of literally expanding our boy’s horizons, we booked a holiday to travel to the far off and exotic land of Greece. Which, given I now live in Europe and not Australia, is not actually as far off and exotic as it used to be when I was growing up, and in fact can be gotten to from Vienna in the same amount of time it takes to fly from Melbourne to Sydney. Alex spent her childhood summers playing on the white sands and in the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, so Greece seemed like a fitting location to take Roo on his first getaway. I spent my summers splashing around the not-quite white sand and not-quite blue waters of Portarlington Bay, which, ironically, on this side of the planet is seen to be far more exotic than the Greek Islands. Apparently exotisism is all about distance. I hope to take Roo to Portarlington in the future to really round out his maritime experience.

While the commute to Greece was far more economical from my current residence, it still required the use of an aeroplane to get there, which meant we voluntarily paid good money to climb into a cramped and crowded metal tube with a baby and a gaggle of strangers. This made us more than a little nervous.

Thanks to the supreme organisational skills of my wife, a turn on of mine and one of the many reasons I married her, we headed to the airport with an arsenal of goodies designed to dazzle and distract a one-year-old boy no matter his level of agitation. We went into the experience ready to bribe, weasel, beg, and proffer any and all of our possessions in order to ensure Roo’s equanimity. Were we ready to debase ourselves to appease a one year old? You bet. Did we care if it meant avoiding hours of a wailing infant confined to our laps and two-hundred odd people glaring at us from the corners of their eyes? Not in the slightest.

Thanks to Roo being an unerringly early-riser, to the point that I’ve disabled the alarm on my phone as I now have a baby that performs the same function — the clock clicks over to five and you can be guaranteed that his little sleepy cries will soon come wavering into our ears via the baby monitor —we were up and about well before our scheduled flight of ten am. Alex had yet again earned her title of maestro of management and had all items packed and post-it notes on the back of the front door listing those last few possessions that needed to be tucked inside the suitcase. Roo contributed to the preparation process by graciously accepting the food we hand-fed him and then deigning to allow us to remove his soiled diaper and wash away his mess without too much fussing. He’s a real team player.

Thanks to my father-in-law, we made it to the airport right on time, bade farewell to Opa, and then waded into the mass of humanity that seems to fill an airport regardless of the hour. Having sequestered ourselves away from humankind like devout monks during the pandemic, this was our first foray back into the fray of society and, to be honest, being around so many people freaked us the hell out. There were so many of them, packed in and moving in all directions, and Alex clung to the suitcase while I clung to Roo held in my arms like buoys in a turbulent ocean. 

We found our check-in line and wove down its undulating length to the end, far from the counters, and watched a man in line berate anyone who hesitated by the express check-in, unsure where to go, barking at them that the line starts back there and that that counter wasn’t open. Alex and I shared a look and, without needing words, agreed that we hadn’t missed this aspect of our community.

Thankfully, the mass of people that so exhausted us was a novelty for Roo and staring directly at strangers, unblinking, a contemplative scowl on his face, kept him relatively entertained as we painstakingly inched towards the counters.

Once we had shed the suitcase and secured our tickets, our next challenge was getting through customs. This is already an unnecessarily complex procedure, what with electronic devices needing to be removed, pockets emptied, boarding passes presented, and potentially deadly bottles of hand disinfectant and deodorant safety secured in plastic ziplock bags. We learnt that adding a baby and a fold-away pram into the mix made it even more of a juggling act as we hustled our possessions and offspring around between us, ending up sweaty and frazzled but with the backpacks and pram on the conveyor belt and the child in our arms. It could have easily been the other way round. 

When it was determined that neither our items or toddler posed any potential explosive risk, we entered the interior of the airport with a sign of relief. We had made it to the waystation between the madness of the exterior airport and the claustrophobia of the aeroplane and so celebrated our temporary respite with sugared doughnuts, as is only proper. While discovering the joys of deep-fried dough coated in sugar, Roo put his also newly discovered art of flirtation into action with everyone and anyone in our proximity. Given we were in a capital city’s primary airport, this gave him a lot of people on which to practice. 

Roo has a bluntness and confidence to his flirtation that I’m a little jealous of. His tactic is to just walk up to his target until he’s about a metre away and then stop and stare until they acknowledge him. For people who like babies, this is almost instantaneous as they turn to coo over his fluff of blonde hair or cherub cheeks. More entertaining is when the quarry is clearly unaccustomed to small people and do their best to ignore the unblinking toddler at the edge of their eyeline, despite the invasion of the normally respected personal boundaries. Eventually, Roo wins this battle of wills and they turn and give him an awkwardly formal greeting, and this is when Roo sinks in the hook. After waiting all that time, he locks eyes with them for one heartbeat and then gives a coy smile and adverts his gaze, waits another beat, and then looks up through his lashes with a shy grin. The man is a pro. Once this little performance has played out, they’re putty in his hands. 

Of course, this entire recital makes Alex and I extremely uncomfortable as we are torn between not wanting to bother other people with our offspring, not wanting to constantly have to collar Roo as he learns about the outside world, and, perhaps most importantly of all, not wanting to make awkward conversation with the collection of random strangers and potential weirdos our son approaches. Generally it plays out with Roo making his move, us all agreeing he’s adorable, and Alex and I hustling him along until he spots his next prize.

Once the doughnuts were digested and we had torn Roo away from the latest object of his affection, we made our way to our gate. This process, normally done quickly and efficiently in order to allow Alex and I a sense of solace at having arrived at our gate before the aircraft, was a much more protracted affair as Roo took three steps back for every four taken forward. Given this playground of lights, people, stores, bathrooms, and rows of seats set out before each gate purely for his clambering entertainment, Roo saw no reason not to crisscross the entire terminal, stopping only to inspect, grab, lift, lick, and poke his finger into anything that caught his interest. He walked with the assurance of someone with a total right to be there, meaning it was up to Alex and I to guide, corral, and snatch him out from under the feet of unseeing fellow passengers and their rolling carry-on suitcases.

The act of herding a toddler through a busy airport had the added benefit of keeping us busy and providing us with some exercise while we waited for boarding. When the time for boarding finally came, Alex and I gave each other a quick pep-talk, sent a prayer to a god we don’t believe in, and strapped Roo to my chest in a baby carrier. 

(To be continued…)


It is the first morning of 2021 and I am sitting in bed drinking a cup of tea my wife made me and 2020 is done and I feel better for it.

Of course, there’s really no logic to my sense of relief. The period we called 2020 is, after all, just an arbitrarily chosen point in time. Millennia ago, some shaman determined that when the earth was in a particular position in its cycle around the sun, that the year had died, an end-date was formed, and it was deemed appropriate to celebrate the start of something new. The earth didn’t notice, of course, and just continued in its steady circle of the sun, but we living on earth thought it sounded like a good idea and have since continued the tradition of putting a full stop in our collective sentence every time the earth finds its way back to that same spot adjacent to the sun. It is random, arbitrary, and nothing really differs from 11:59, December 31st, 2020, to 00:00, January 1st, 2021. But it does help give us a sense of closure.

And, damn, but do we deserve a fictional but comforting sense of closure. The events of 2020 were anything but fictional, they were, in fact, painfully real. I won’t rehash them because we all know what they were, we all lived through them. We all watched the world close down, all read the countless news reports, watched the graphs and tallies as the number of cases grew, all closed our doors and settled in for the long wait, all obtained masks, and developed an intimate relationship with our sweatpants. 

You know what I’m talking about because you lived through it too. And it doesn’t matter if you’re reading this in a backyard in Melbourne, or an apartment in Vienna, or in bed in Beijing, because you went through it too. And as awful as the implications of that are, that this virus and its society-stopping impact managed to circumvent the world with frighteningly apparent ease, isn’t it remarkable that this goddamn year and all its weird and new and awful moments was a universally experienced phenomenon. 

I didn’t see my family this year. That is to say, I didn’t see them physically. For a full twelve months, for the entire rotation of the earth around the sun from an arbitrarily chosen point and back again, I was removed from the people who raised me. This has never happened before. I hope it never happens again. But, like the rest of the world, I adapted. I found creative ways to engage with my loved ones through digital means. I participated in video call parties, broke out of virtual escape rooms, and sat in my pyjamas at two in the morning, raising a glass of whiskey to my grandpa while attending his streamed funeral. 

It wasn’t the same, of course. Nothing can replicate the feel and warmth and comfort of a long tight hug. But it was something. It was still connection, and conversation, and laughter, and life shared, and while it’s easy to wish none of this had ever happened, instead I choose to be grateful that this all happened at a time when I could open a metal book, click a button, and see my family’s faces smiling back at me through pixels so small so as not to be seen. 

You know what I’m talking about because you lived through it too.

To say it was an emotional year is an understatement. I felt emotions I didn’t know could be felt. The casual boredom and anxiety of a lockdown. The quiet exhilaration of completing a workday in pyjamas. The eerie sensation of stepping onto a train platform and seeing only masked faces looking back at you. But the primary emotion I felt this year was frustration. 

I felt frustrated by the limitations of lockdown. I felt frustrated when an overwrought network failed and a call to my family froze. I felt frustrated trying to take a work call while my wife tried to take one too from half a metre away in our cobbled together home-office. I felt frustrated looking at the same four walls day in and day out. I felt frustrated every time I saw a nose poking over the top of someone’s mask. I felt frustrated every time I forgot to unmute myself. And I felt overwhelmingly frustrated every time there was news reports of people having parties in the middle of a lockdown, of people who knew they were infected but thought it was okay to pop into the shops, of morons claiming that wearing a piece of protective clothing was somehow impinging of their personal freedoms, of selfishness, and borders closing, and death tolls rising, and flights cancelled, and that day when I could return to my family stretching further and further into the future until it seemed to disappear over the horizon line altogether. 

I felt frustrated with a society I thought was better than this.

You know what I’m talking about because you lived through it too.

But focusing on this frustration is a choice, and a bad one. And that was something else I had to learn to adapt to in 2020, choosing where to direct my attention in a way that best served me. It was so easy to get sucked into the endless feed of headlines and the addictive horror that was the virus and its effects, and to believe the world was ending. But it wasn’t ending, only changing, and there are good parts to change if you look for them.

2020 was the year of the virus, but it was also the year I got to spend every day with my wife and best friend. Rather than break us, being confined together taught us new ways to spend time together and new ways to give each other space. It made me more grateful than ever that I found a partner who I can literally spend every minute of my life with and still want more. 

2020 was the year of the virus, but it was also the year I didn’t have to commute to work anymore and so had time to exercise. I started slow, and with short distances, but then ran longer, and faster. I ran in sweltering summer heat and pitch black winter evenings. I got fitter and felt better inside my own bones. 

2020 was the year of the virus, but it was also the year we all got crafty. We baked sourdoughs, and banana breads, and all the comfort food we needed to get through the long days. We picked up knitting needles, pencils, paintbrushes, and tools, and we made things. We took photographs and made videos, and wrote things, and read things. We found new hobbies and new ways to enjoy our time. 

And you know exactly what I’m talking about because you lived through it too.

I know nothing really differs from 11:59, December 31st, 2020, to 00:00, January 1st, 2021. I know it’s all arbitrary. But, dammit, I am still hopeful for this coming allotment of time. Not because some past shaman was right and something has died only for something new to be born, and not because the slate magically becomes clean just because we add an extra digit to the end of the calendar, but because in these last twelve months we have all adapted. We have been through an ordeal and we have learnt from it.

My hope is that we will take the collective lessons into the new year, the major groundbreaking discoveries and the intimate personal revelations. My hope is that 2021 is the year the vaccine works and we contain the virus. My hope is that 2021 is the year I get to hug my family again. But whatever 2021 brings, my hope is that I continue to grow and adapt and find new ways to connect and enjoy my time. 

And I am comforted by the knowledge that you will know what I’m talking about because you will be there, living through it too.

Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 26

With the days warming up over here, Summer is knocking on the back door, waiting to get in, which means all Europeans’ minds are turning towards one thing: the holidays. While things are improving in Austria in regards to the COVID restrictions — shops are reopening with strict guidelines in place regarding masks and the number of customers allowed inside at one time (it’s progress!) — the idea of being able to go on the usual beach holiday is still pretty much out of the question. As a consolation prize, the Austrian government has announced that travel to Germany and the Czech Republic may be allowed, but given that these locations are basically cookie cutter countries to Austria, at least in terms of topography and landscape, this is not proving to be a particularly exciting prospect for many Austrians. I imagine it’s a bit akin to booking an AirBnB only to find out it’s your neighbour’s house. It’d be interesting for a day, and for sure you’d snoop through their stuff for a while, but then you’re just staring at the same scenery from a slightly different perspective. 

More and more this holiday season, it’s looking like any vacation will have to be of the internal variety. But maybe, with a bit of imagination, it’s still possible to replicate the travel experience from the comfort of your own home. Let’s see what we’re working with:


In order to truly capture the thrill of the flight, my first suggestion would be to find the most uncomfortable chair in your house, the one you keep in the basement or shed and every time you look at it you think “I should really throw that out” before closing the door and leaving it there forever. Set this chair up facing a wall or directly behind where your partner is sitting; the key component is to ensure there is only so much space between yourself and the object/person in front of you that your legs remain constantly bent at a 45 degree angle. 

For the next twenty-four hours, give yourself that real jetsetter experience by remaining in the chair at all times and doing nothing but eating reheated food and watching a collection of movies that never really interested you before, but will do to pass the time. 

For additional authenticity, every time you get up to go to the bathroom, spin yourself around a few times. This will ensure you get that genuine dizzy and slightly disoriented feeling whenever you’re sitting on the toilet. Bonus points for anyone who props up a mirror on the back of their toilet door so they can watch themselves as they do their business and consider how terrible they look. 



As a landlocked country, the beach getaway is an important pilgrimage for the Austrian people, and while there’s no replacing the real deal, it is possible to create a poor facsimile of the real deal. Begin by coating the floor of your bathroom with fine-grained white sand, the type that feels soft and warm beneath the soles of your feet and pressing up between your toes. If your access to sand is limited, cat litter is readily available at most supermarkets.

Set up an electric heater in the room to simulate the tropical warmth you are used to finding at the beach. A tan is essential to ensure you look and feel the part, so sit as close as you can tolerate to the heater until you can feel your skin literally baking. When it is the colour of a freshly cooked spit roast pig, you’ll know you’re ready to strut your stuff.

Next, fill the bathtub with lukewarm to cold water and tip in as much salt as is available in your home. You’ll want enough to ensure that the fashionable second degree burn you have just acquired will sear upon contact with the water and that you will emerge with eyes as red as your skin. For additional authenticity, throw in strips of the slightly sludgy lettuce you forgot was in your crisper, as well as any old plastic bottles or bandaids you have in the trash.



For many of us, a holiday is all about communing with nature. This experience can be replicated in the home with just a little effort. Begin by surrounding yourself with any and all house plants that you may own and try sparking up a conversation. Congratulations, you are now communing with nature. If you continue to the point that the plants begin to talk back, you have gone too far.  

Exposure to wildlife is also a big part of a wilderness getaway. Alex and I have taken up the pastime of attempting to lure the local cats up onto our balcony or in through the front door. While your neighbours may view this as the kidnapping of their beloved pets, you’ll know you are just doing your part to love and support the native fauna. If you start seeing “missing pet” signs being hung around your apartment block, you have gone too far.

A picnic on the bed is a great way to enjoy some rustic eating. Buy some bread and dips, some cheese and meat, be sure to remove any cats you may have trapped in the bedroom, and tuck into some wholesome food. If you can’t remember the last time you ate anywhere except the bed and wake up with salami slices stuck to your skin and ants in the bedding, you have gone too far.


Those essential elements to a vacation are obtainable with a little out-of-the-box thinking, at least enough to fool that internal travel bug long enough until the world is once again open for business. And if all that fails, pop up any and all of your travel shots as a slideshow on your television, sit as close as possible, and get drunk off home-made cocktails. Before too long, you’ll forget where you are entirely and fall asleep to views of the beach. Just like on a real holiday.

Tomorrow: Writing.

P.S. For a, possibly, more enjoyable virtual vacation, check out Sir David Attenborough’s interactive tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: http://attenboroughsreef.com/

Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 25

Over the past five years I have lived a rather mobile life. In many ways, I maintained three places of residence: London, Vienna, and Melbourne. Granted, my time in Melbourne was far less than that of the other two locations, but given that all my junk still fills a bedroom in my brother’s house, that some of my mail is still delivered there, and that Damian and Holly still refer to the room as “Jono’s room” despite the fact that they live there alone and have done so for five years now, I claim squatter’s rights. 

Unsurprisingly when attempting to stretch oneself between three countries of habitation, I have become very familiar with the various modes of transportation available in this modern age. Between long haul international flights to and from Australia and Europe, and regular smaller flights skipping across from London to Vienna, I have mastered the process of moving through an airport while allowing for time to drop off luggage, get through passport control and customs with some minutes allotted for a good frisking should the need arise, have myself a sneaky coffee and a sandwich, and locate my gate with just enough time for a quick dash to the toilet before boarding my plane. To date, I have yet to miss a flight, however there was one close call that had me sprinting through an airport praying to a god I don’t believe in. In this instance, I joined the tailend of the boarding queue and collapsed into my seat, relief and sweat pouring out of me. A win for me but not so much for the passenger beside me breathing in the byproduct of my relief and sweat.


While district nursing across all the compass points of London, I learned to navigate the spider web of bus, tram, and train routes, and got to see the city from this variety of perspectives, as well as to meet and mingle with the people of London, including but not limited to that one gentleman who asked if he could light my hair on fire (I declined his invitation, for anyone wondering). To date, I have absolutely missed buses, and trains, and trams, and gotten myself so horrendously lost that I found myself wandering through industrial and distinctly creepy parts of London in the very early hours of the morning (for a full accounting of this occasion, please refer to LIFE IN LONDON #01).

The past few years has bred in me a distinct animosity towards these various modes of transportation, of being crammed in with strangers, the delays and cancellations, and of being herded here and there like cattle, the chewing habits of my co-commuters helping to complete this image. But, as is always the way when a viral pandemic sweeps across the world, now that the object of my disdain has been taken away from me, I find myself longing for those earlier golden days. Much like after a break up, I catch myself romanticising those elements that previously drove me mad. Oh, to be back in that train carriage, the moist armpit of an overweight passenger crammed in beside me hovering centimeters from my face, wavering ever closer as people attempt to push in despite the fact that there’s scarcely room to breath as it is. Not that I was breathing all that deeply, what with the armpit. Oh, the glory of moving with my community.

One of the highlights of my train trip into work used to be as the U2 trundled across the Danube River. I would look up from the meditative trance I had put myself in in order to pretend that I was in a quiet rainforest instead of squeezed in next to all the other morning commuters, and soak in the view of the winding water reflecting the colours of the rising sun and bracketed by the city of Vienna and the mountains perched behind it. It made me feel lucky to live in this city. I miss that.


As an expatriate, the other thing I miss about transportation since the worldwide lock down is access to said world. It’s not always easy to be the one whose homeland it isn’t, to not get the references everyone else around you grew up with, to not always know the culturally appropriate thing to say (I have learned that Australians come on strong with the niceness and it can be confusing and unnerving to Europeans when we talk to a stranger like they’re already our mate), to miss your own country, and family, and in-jokes, and landscapes, and food, and friends. It was a comfort to know that, technically, if it all got too much, I could board the next plane out and be back amongst all the things and people I miss within twenty-four hours. I mean, super expensive buying a ticket that last minute, but technically possible.

Knowing that that option is no longer there is scary. For the first time since moving overseas, I truly feel cut off from my family. Already, trips away to see them have had to be cancelled and the reality is, I don’t know when I’ll next see them in person. In a time of uncertainties, that uncertainty is proving to be the hardest to live with.

So I’m just taking it one day at a time. Thinking about the unknown quantity of time between now and a future reunion doesn’t do me any good, so instead I just focus on the next twenty-four hours. I keep eating overnight oats and doing yoga with my wife. I keep writing silly blogs and going for strolls in the evening, thankful to have Alex in all of this. I keep messaging and video calling and sharing photos with my family so I can feel them close even if they are, in fact, far away. 

And I’ll keep doing this until enough days have passed that I can once again be herded like livestock through the maze of an airport, be packed in with all the noisy and smelly passengers, sit in those cramped seats and eat that crappy food, and do it all with a smile on my face, grateful for the miracle that is transportation, and ready to see my family at the other end.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 19.45.12

Tomorrow: Vacationing.